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Liberapay – A recurrent donations platform (liberapay.com)
455 points by NicoJuicy 56 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 83 comments

This is interesting. The non-profit is a French association under the so called 1901 law[0]. In Germany it would the equivalent of an Eingetragener Verein[1]. This structure is flexible, well defined and relatively safe, that is, they are not going to run away with the money as you have quite some reporting work to do and the reporting must be available to everybody. So, from a legal structure point of view, this is really a nice thing. Now, they need to find their users.

[0]: https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Association_loi_de_1901

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Registered_association_(German...

Thanks for looking it up! It validates the opinion I had when I checked them out

Wouldn't it be more like a Genossenschaft/Cooperative? https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coop%C3%A9rative

Since Facebook fan subscriptions recently released. Another multinational corporation tries to claim 30% on the shoulders of developers/content creators/...

I would rather see a "true" non-profit appear and claim this space. I also trust European non-profits more than American ones.

The platform (Liberapay) lives on donations, supports different currencies, multiple languages, has multiple integrations ( Github, Gitlab, Youtube, ..) and doesn't take a commission.

Which is the first time i see something like this.


No affliation with Liberapay, it was mentioned in another topic and i found it newsworthy ( Facebook fan subscriptions on the frontpage ... )

Well, Liberapay is for donations only, hence it is not a true alternative to Patreon and such. Also, you still have to pay the processing fees which, they say, should be below 5% on average.

Nonetheless, it is pretty well-made and needed, especially since they care about internationalization.

> not a true alternative to Patreon

Translation: Not a paywall service.

Patreon is largely that function for people. The ability to just get donations existed long before. A tool to combine donations with access to exclusive stuff is the main focus of Patreon.

Personally, I see paywall-service as unfortunate because paywalls shouldn't exist. We need to find solutions (like patronage not tied to paywalls) to fund creative works that aren't restricted or freemium or whatever.

It seems to be working for The Guardian.

I think if something's valuable enough, someone will be willing to cover the cost, irrespective of whether it's also freely available.

The freerider-dilemma is a real thing. Even when it works in some cases (Wikipedia has large enough audience to get by on donations even when the percentage that donates is tiny), those are the exception.

Hence the efforts to build better coordination models (such as https://snowdrift.coop is doing).

> because paywalls shouldn't exist

Why not?

Because in principle, all the same amount of resources could fund the same work and yet a far greater audience could get that much greater value without paywalls.

Paywalls are a compromise that dramatically reduces the overall benefit a work has in order to get over the freerider problem that public goods face.

Basically: the PAY part isn't the problem, the WALL part is.

When you say “in principle,” what you mean is “ignoring all of the reasons people spend money.”

I mean that it's not an absolutely set necessary conclusion that stuff can't get funded equally well without paywalls. It might require different cultural norms, different ways to organize people or many other solutions, but IN PRINCIPLE the resources are available and could be available without paywalls.

And other than securing funding, there's nothing else positive about paywalls (although I'll admit there's potential arguments around ideas like people appreciating things more when they have to pay for them — things that still don't anywhere near outweigh all the negatives that paywalls have)

I don't see any reason why Liberapay couldn't deploy a recurring donation system like Patreon's.

They don't allow donations on content publication like patreon does, because it can be seen as a purchase.

They only allow reccuring donations.

It's their choice to not compete with Patreon. See FAQ: https://en.liberapay.com/about/faq

"What are the differences between Liberapay and other recurrent crowdfunding platforms like Patreon?

1. Liberapay is only for donations, meaning that transactions must not be linked to a contract nor a promise of recompense."

They do. It's in the title of the article.

What do you mean?? Liberapay supports solely recurring donations.

The question is not the money, the question is freedom of speech. A platform taking a commission is no big deal compared to the fact that it is allowed to determine what opinions are allowed and what aren't.

The platform has to determine what it's funding, because it's dependent on (a) local law (b) payment processors (c) the goodwill of the rest of its customers.

Nobody's going to help someone fund their child-porn-to-Iran scheme, and nor should they.

Unless you call it something cool, like "Tor".

Tor is a security tool that might be used for evil purposes.

It's not a gun, Tor is not developed so that pedophiles can share child porn.

And guns aren't developed for murders. But that isn't the point I was trying to glibly make.

People contribute to lots of well-intentioned took that contribute some kind of indirectly to evil things.

I'm not sure I understand. The commission is a really big deal for people financially dependants on recurring donations.

Unfortunately, as long as they're relying on Stripe and PayPal there are 1imitations to what is and isn't allowed: there are plenty of things that US payment processors make hard to deal with.

Not trying to dispute your point, but out of curiosity: Is that actually true?

> Donations to [...] can be paid using: a credit or debit card (Visa, MasterCard, American Express), a Euro bank account (SEPA Direct Debit), or a PayPal account.

Could I send money through my regular European bank without using Stripe to pay on Liberapay? Does anyone know how they've implemented that?

Huh, weird.

On the creator side, they say:

> We currently support processing payments through Stripe and PayPal.

From that point of view, they could potentially get stuck paying creators operating in what Visa/MasterCard/etc. consider high-risk categories.

SEPA is option of Stripe.

However, Stripe is still a US payment processor, and will be subject to the same legal concerns as other US payment processors (such as those raised by FOSTA-SESTA for anyone involved in any sex work). While you might avoid Visa/MasterCard's rules that come from such a legislative environment, you won't avoid Stripe's.

Note that Liberapay had to change payment processors, and in the process they changed how the payments work (https://medium.com/liberapay-blog/liberapay-status-update-a7...).

I get the impression that they're getting into a state now where there's probably an "expectations mismatch" between what people expect to be doing when they set up a recurring donation compared to how Liberapay actually works.

As the blog post mentions, now you can say "I want to donate $5/month" and you put in $60 to cover a year, but you have to pay that full $60 immediately, and the recipient also receives the whole $60 (minus fees) right away as well. After that point, there's not really any way for the donator to change their mind and stop donating after a few months, so it's more like a one-time donation with a reminder but still being presented as a smaller recurring one.

I think the problem is that overall it will end up encouraging people to make smaller donations for shorter time periods because they won't necessarily want to commit for many months or years' worth up-front. Then that means that they have to be sent reminders to re-donate more often, which feels more annoying and will probably result in people just letting their donations lapse more often than repeatedly renewing them.

That's quite a drawback. I don't mind supporting some creators and YouTubers through Patreon or YouTube membershops because $5/month isn't all that much. But if I had to make a decision to spend $60 to support them that much for the year, I doubt I would do that for most. Some charge $50-$100/month on Patreon for certain benefits too, I doubt many would be willing to pay $1000 up front for that for a year.

I'm surprised this is a payment processor limitation. I thought Stripe supported automatic recurring payments?

You diplomatically state this, but they fail to deliver on the most important thing of their service, surely there is a plan to fix this?

It used to work this way, and the way it was done is that you would pre-load your account with money and then they would transfer it (transaction fees made withdrawals each month prohibitively expensive).

Unfortunately they were forced to change payment processors (MangoPay kicked them off their platform without an explanation) and they weren't able to find a new payment processor that gave them the same feature (having a staging bank account).

The blog post that GP linked explains things in far more detail.

I love liberapay but everytime I go there I see that developing floss is not a viable career path even for the best of the best. Weekly income is no more than 100€, that's what like an hourly rate of top end freelance developer (which really a lot of these guys are).

Projects like this are a very bittersweet victory for floss comunity. One step at a time I guess.

Liberapay is not the only platform that allows for free software to be funded. Here are two projects that are very well funded on Patreon. The platform itself is obviously not open source, but the projects themselves are:



You can work for companies that will pay you to develop FLOSS that supports their products. This is where most of code in Linux comes from.

Making a good FLOSS product and relying on donations alone would be a foolish career choice, agreed. You need to be creative on how you earn income, and it can be done. That being said, if you are looking for the easiest way to make money as a developer, FLOSS is not the answer, for sure. You need to have a passion for it.

>Weekly income is no more than 100€, that's what like an hourly rate of top end freelance developer (which really a lot of these guys are).

You do realize that's per donor and a recurring payment.

It's not per donor. Their total transfer volume last week was €1,589.34 according to the website. As far as I can tell, the only project with more than €100 in weekly income is Liberapay itself.

EDIT: I see now that they cap donations per donor and recipient at €100 per week, but it doesn't seem like anyone gets close to the cap.

There may be donees who receive more than that but don't make the amount public, but you are correct about the total volume.

I've found interesting that it's a fork for https://gratipay.com/

Recurring payment, so many platforms now...

https://maecen.com/ https://www.tipeee.com/ https://patreon.com/ https://www.buymeacoffee.com/ https://flattr.com/ https://d.rip/

What other platform to host a profile and raise money monthly do you know ?

As a content creator, what I need is the ability to create multiple projects under one account. I want people to donate to separately to each individual piece of content I create.

Ideally, a payment platform should offer an API for creating projects programmatically and retrieving information on the funding.

Probably the most complete up-to-date list: https://wiki.snowdrift.coop/market-research/other-crowdfundi...

It includes all you listed and much more.

It's on the wiki of a still-in-progress platform that actually plans a novel and potentially better model than all the other things, at least in terms of funding public goods without paywalls (many of these sites are paywall-focused, freemium projects with some public, some exclusive publications).

Shameless plug for my company https://Donorbox.org we helped nonprofits raise over $150MM.

I've used Liberapay to donate to the Matrix.org project[1] for the past few years. It's a bit of a shame that the new Stripe integration is actually a direct bank transfer of your entire donation amount (in other words, recurring donations are actually lump sum donations).

This doesn't make a difference for most projects, but it is something to consider -- though Liberapay has always required a lump sum deposit into their accounts for recurring payments so I guess this is a safer setup.

[1]: https://en.liberapay.com/matrixdotorg/

I love this but the main page should clearly state the thing that makes everyone here so interested:

> Liberapay takes 0%.

> We are a European non-profit and open source.

> We are funded by donations.

Now it's "just a recurrent donations platform".

I'm surprised no one has mentioned Open Collective yet:


They have an expense claim transparency system for each collective and a cool gifting system for larger organisations to allow their staff to donate to different collectives from the company pool.

This seems really great, I was thinking of doing something like this recently as well, although I was thinking more along lines of:

- I have a set amount of money I wish to give each month (say £200)

- Given I have setup x amount of people I wish to donate to, the system will automatically spread my money evenly amongst the creators, or using a given weighting provided

- I'll be able to add any new creators to this list and not have to recalculate the amount given to each one, given I'm still putting the same amount of money into my "donation pot"

Looking at their current system it seems to still follow the old paradigm of "set up a creator and set the amount for each of them individually", I hope that they could support something more like the above some day. Personally, the mental burden of having to continually reevaluate my monthly spend is probably the biggest burden when considering donating to someone new, which only gets larger as your donation list gets larger, so having the a system offload this I think would be a great way to encourage more donating.

Then you should take a look at Flattr <https://flattr.com/>. They are older than Patreon (although they never got the same level of widespread use as Patreon) and they operate in exactly the manner you describe.

Huh, can't believe I hadn't seen this before. I suppose the main problem with all of these systems is that the creator ultimately has to sign up to them in first place, and unfortunately all these smaller sites just don't have the people I want to donate to on them. There's no quick and easy answer to that unfortunately, outside of trying to federate some kind of standard for all donations that clients could plug into, and we all know how that goes[0]


I dunno. This may help donators manage their money better but receivers would be discouraged from using that platform since such a system would dissuade sponsors from focusing on a few projects and providing a stable income to projects.

This sounds like Flattr: https://flattr.com

Flattr did this. It may still. It got bought a few years ago.

I hate to be the blockchain guy, but this sounds like something you could look at Ethereum or similar to provide. I'd consider using crypto if this use case existed.

This is exactly what the Basic Attention Token, linked to the Brave browser is supposed to do. You can even spread the donations based on the time spent on each website/videos. You should check it out.

Seems super niche. eg only works for things which are primarily a website or video

Ha, so Facebook by claiming 30% of the profits basically advertised Patreon and Liberapay by not emphasizing the benefits. Instead of promoting 'ready-to-use' audience they've been caught in the middle between high percentage and fuzzy copyright rules. Good job

This is what greed gets you.

Do I correctly understand that Liberapay currently receives 20.50 EUR per week from 64 patrons? https://liberapay.com/LiberapayOrg/

The organization behind the website does. The website development team is at https://liberapay.com/Liberapay/.

Interesting, although really lightly used; if I'm reading this correctly the top payee only has 280ish subscriptions? https://liberapay.com/explore/individuals

Are donations made with Liberapay tax deductible for companies or individuals (at least in the EU?)

Probably only in France

Not even. Only "charity" are tax deductible in France and not every Loi 1901 association are considered to be "charity". The state control the status that allow to be tax deductible and they strict rule about what your association need to be about to apply for it but also how it is organized.

Now, if you use Librapay to give to an association or an NGO that has the status, nothing prevent them from giving you the tax deduction proof that you are going to need to show the tax office.

Their legal page seems to implies that they comply with European money transmission laws. How about the US?

Recall: https://gratipay.news/gratipocalypse-42fd0ec0d9e8

May not directly answer your question, but Gratipay held funds in escrow and Liberapay does not.

Suppose Terry Davis had had a liberapay account, and a developer had read an article about him being in a bad way at some point in the past.

Suppose that developer then decided to donate some funds to Terry using liberapay.

Would such a donation have complied with French hate speech laws?

More important than the 0% commission is how open this platform will actually be, or will it also engage in politics and police certain speech as they see fit?

Hopefully they will police hate speech and other forms of speech which are rightly illegal due to their inherent intention to infringe on other people’s rights, yes.

You can use a hateful platform like Hatreon if you wish to spread those views. Because your freedom of speech isn’t being trampled on, it’s just that civilized people don’t want you junking up their property.

Companies need to leave the policing to the police. Also, hate speech is not illegal in USA, nor should it be. It is a complicated issue - everything that is wrong should not be illegal or banned.

It is, thankfully, illegal in France, and as such Liberapay does have to police it. Again, if you want to spread hate speech, you'll have to use another platform.

Most of the time no one actually "wants to spread hate speech". It's a category used to gain power by evoking government backed oppression of ideological enemies.

...and in some rare cases there is also actual hate speech in the sense of a countries respective laws. (Those laws are pretty diverse and far from universal.)

In functioning legal systems this latter, tiny set of cases is determined by judges. In other systems it's chosen through other means like corporations, priests, some mob or something.

With platforms as the rising way of public discourse courts are unprepared and just hand it off to somebody else. ...that doesn't mean it's the responsible thing to do.

People will probably still think that's great until the integrated corporations decide to switch sides and start to promote non-mainstream positions.

Given that Jean-Marie Le Pen was able to campaign for years, I find it hard to believe it is illegal.

In practice, actual hate speech (the respective local legal norm, not the battle cry) doesn't govern what you can say but how you can say it.

Jean-Marie Le Pen managed to formulate many of his statements in compliance with local hate speech regulations. Far from all of them, though. See:


> This site's services were suspended by VISA in November of 2017. You may request to be notified via email should we become active again.

- the front page of Hatreon

(good riddance to bad rubbish IMHO)

What is hate speech?

We all (hopefully) agrees that hate speech is immoral and bad. But once you attempt to define it, and even more importantly, once you get specific and try to police it you will learn how slippery that slope is.

There is no fixed definition of hate speech. It's based on du jure norms, which are in a constant state of flux. No person can define or even accurately predict what will constitute hate speech in the future.

Therefore, once you accept the principle that certain speech can be made criminal, you are agreeing to accept as permanent whatever future shifts may occur. It is inconceivable that this will not be abused in the future by nefarious political actors.

Who defines "Hate Speech"? Is Donald Trump hate speech? Antifa?

From https://github.com/liberapay/liberapay.com/issues/1383:

> Liberapay cannot protect anyone from the decisions of underlying payment processors, not even itself (https://medium.com/liberapay-blog/liberapay-is-in-trouble-b5...).

Their platform their rules. Don't like it, then use hatreon or a direct payment method like cryptocurrency donations.

It is the law in France - as it is with most countries - that some forms of speech and expression are not tolerated and companies must not provide a platform for them.

Extremism on both the left and the right isn't tolerated. Nazism, Antisemitism, etc. all fall into the same bucket.

France - where Liberapay is based - notoriously has the "Burka Ban", preventing women from covering their faces in public. In the UK "incitement to violence" is illegal, as are certain forms of protest and speech, and it is infamously severe when it comes to libel/slander law. Germany has outlawed many forms of right-wing nationalism in fear of fuelling neo-Nazis.

Policing speech is inherently European. In some ways, it's why the United States exists, and one of the key differences in creed between European and American attitudes.

Typically European attitudes around this veer towards "tragedy of the commons" arguments relating to violence, incitement to violence and discrimination.

Attitudes are much, much more liberal in relation to showing and exhibiting nudity and it does not automatically equate that seeing breasts/genitals means content is sexual as it often does in the US.

TL;DR: they're going to police speech, probably differently to others, but it will be policed. Nudity/(consenting adult) sexual content is more likely to get a pass more so than US companies would allow, but discrimination and non-centrist politics less likely.

> Nudity/(consenting adult) sexual content is more likely to get a pass more so than US companies would allow

Unfortunately, Liberapay is beholden to its payment processors, which tend to ban sexual content; they're currently using Stripe, which bans quite a bit of stuff: https://stripe.com/us/restricted-businesses

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